NEWS FEATURE:  LEARN  TO  RESCUE YOURSELVES

MANILA, OCTOBER 3, 2009
(STAR) By Reinir Padua - The destruction wrought by tropical storm “Ondoy” should be a wake-up call for Filipinos to be prepared to rescue themselves and not rely on authorities to survive, a disaster management expert said yesterday.

With hundreds of thousands of residents marooned and helpless on the roofs of their submerged homes and waiting for help from the government that did not seem to be prepared for the magnitude of disaster, Reigi Cruz, director of the non-government organization Emergency Resource Center Inc., said it was high time that people “learn to be self-reliant and protect themselves.”

Cruz noted that in other countries, particularly in the United States, there is an ongoing effort to educate people to shift from the usual practice of depending on rescue groups and do what he called “bystander rescue” among residents themselves.

He said that under this setup, laymen are being trained with the assumption that the supposed elite rescue teams are not always helpful in times of disaster.

“Within 72 to 98 hours from the time of impact of a disaster, you only have each other to depend on for help,” Cruz told The STAR in an interview.

“People are so reliant on (hotlines like) 911, thinking it’s (rescue) going to happen (soon). The fact is it’s not,” he added.

Cruz said that while the shift in rescue strategy has a long way to go in other countries, at least there has been a realization abroad, unlike here in the Philippines.

“There’s the mentality that it (disaster) will never happen to me,” Cruz stressed, explaining why the pro-active role of residents in preparing for worst-case scenario has not been so popular in the Philippines.

“Once it’s in the consciousness of Filipinos, it will be easier. The technology is there but (the problem is) how to get the people into it,” Cruz said.

Cruz cited even stocking up on canned goods, batteries, clothes and other necessities in a pail in months when typhoons are expected could do wonders for a family once they are stricken by a disaster.

He also mentioned that in houses in low-lying areas, it would be safer to install power outlets in areas much higher than the floor.

“Everything’s (information) on the Internet and available to the public,” Cruz said.

According to Cruz, there is a law stating this need to empower citizens in times of disaster, with school curricula supposed to include disaster preparedness.

“Even in scouting before, disaster preparedness was included,” he added.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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